Thursday, January 15, 2009

Healthier Whole Grain Products

In spite of all that healthful fiber, whole grains and foods made from whole grain flour can be surprisingly difficult for many people to digest. The good news is there is a way around all of this -- sprouted whole grain flour. Where whole grain flours are milled from a dried seed, this type of flour is made from seeds that have sprouted (think grass, but a tiny sprout) before being dried and milled into flour. The sprouting process increases the nutrients and makes them more easily digested and absorbed. Since they are allowed to grow into a plant, the body digests sprouted whole grain flour as a vegetable -- which, of course, is a plant.

Organic whole-food educator Janie Quinn, who helped develop sprouted whole grain flour, is the founder of a food company called Essential Eating (Scranton, Pennsylvania), and author of several nutrition-related books including her latest, Essential Eating Sprouted Baking. She told me that most people are unaware that whole grains are actually seeds whose "destiny" is to sprout and thus "burst into an alive food." Because the digestive tract has difficulty breaking down traditional (i.e. non-sprouted) whole grains and flours, they pass through the body with many of their nutrients locked in and unabsorbed. While losing none of the fiber, sprouted whole grains allow the nutrients to blossom. A University of Minnesota study reported that sprouted whole wheat has higher amounts of bioavailable levels of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B5 and vitamin C, along with substantially more biotin and folic acid when compared with non-sprouted whole wheat.

Essential Eating manufactures sprouted flours from both wheat and its close cousin, spelt. They can be substituted for all-purpose flour, though the taste is somewhat different -- the sprouting process adds a more mellow flavor.

Since sprouted flours are made from a plant, not a starch like traditional flours, most people (including those who are starch sensitive) can digest them with ease. However, it's not a solution for people who are gluten sensitive. Though sprouting reduces gluten content and changes its form, and spelt is naturally lower in gluten than wheat, some gluten remains present.


Breads made from sprouted flour are beginning to appear in supermarkets. A chain in the Northeast called Wegmans carries them and on the national front, Whole Foods Market has started selling it as well. Read the label carefully to be sure a bread or other baked product is truly made from sprouted flour, cautions Quinn. Since the FDA does not regulate the word "sprouted" on food labeling, a product can be called sprouted even when it contains only a small amount of sprouted flour. Look to see that the word "sprouted" appears in front of any flours, such as whole wheat or spelt.

To make your own baked goods, you can purchase the flour online at the Essential Eating Web site, where sprouted whole grain flour pretzels and a number of baking mixes for cookies, butterscotch brownies and other goodies are also for sale. Go to Quinn's book explains how to adjust cooking time, ingredients and expectations when you substitute sprouted grain flour for regular flour, and offers many recipes as well.


Janie Quinn, founder, Essential Eating, Scranton, Pennsylvania.

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